Inkstand

1903
Gorham Manufacturing Company (active 1865–1961)


Dimensions

7.1 x 30.0 x 16.5 cm (2 13/16 x 11 13/16 x 6 1/2 in.); troy weight: 22 oz 16 dwt 22 gr (710 gm)

Accession Number

2001.804

Medium or Technique

Silver

On View

Henry Luce Foundation Gallery (Gallery 125)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

Roughly triangular in form, the stand has a shallow, undecorated trough intended to hold a pen and rises to a flat lidded inkwell.The inkstand was executed in the art nouveau-style and bears an arrangement of California poppies whose tendrils wind around the perimeter of the form to create a bilaterally symmetrical design. A five-part hinge connects the square lid to the body. The lid has a thumbgrip and bears a stamped and chased image of a poppy with two pendant leaves. The interior of the lid is gilded. The form was first cast and then lightly chased to provide additional detail and give it a hand-worked finish. The glass inkwell is missing.


The Continental love of Art Nouveau was only rarely reflected in objects produced for a more conservative American clientele. This inkstand is a rare exception, with its whiplash curves, floral ornament with swirling and entwined stems, flower buds, and boldly undulating edge. Notable for its refined form and elegant embellishments, the inkstand was a product of Gorham’s finest years. It was probably made under the direction of the firm’s legendary designer, William Christmas Codman.
The inkstand, Gorham’s production model number B 2342, sold for $37.50 when it was first produced in 1903; Gorham’s profit was $6.79. In 1906 the price was raised to $41.35, but within four years, perhaps due to the decline of the Art Nouveau style, it was heavily discounted.
Although not part of Gorham’s glamorous Martelé line of hand-hammered silver, the inkstand achieved similar effects with less effort and expense. Gorham employed the more economical method of casting to establish the form and then used silversmiths to complete the finishing by hand. Thus, the time-intensive cost of raising the form was minimized while handwork gave the object its glimmering surface and enhanced the delicate floral decoration.

This text has been adapted from “Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000,” edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication.

Markings

Stamped underneath inkstand with company markings as follows: lion passant within a shaped cartouche; anchor within a shaped cartouche; the gothic letter "G" within a hexagon / STERLING / B2342." Scratch marks include "2242-2" among other less decipherable markings.

Provenance

Acquired from a private New Hampshire collection by the firm of Spencer Marks, East Walpole, Massachusetts. 2001, purchased from Specer Marks by the MFA.

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds donated by Dr. and Mrs. James Rabb